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Bold Predictions: The Rangers will have a strong powerplay this season

Bobby Bevilacqua

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The Rangers should have a much improved power play for this upcoming season, and Keith Yandle is a big reason why. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.

Call me crazy, but I think we will finally see the Rangers have an effective and reliable power play during the 2015-16 season.

It seems like every single year, the Rangers sign someone or shake up the power play units in an attempt to start getting more consistent production out of the forwards when they have the man advantage. But every season, they have been unable to do so, failing to capitalize during crucial moments.

Since the start of the 2010-11 season, the Rangers have never ranked higher than 17th in the league on the power play, and never posting a percentage higher than 18.2%. In the 2013-14 playoffs, when Alain Vigneault led his team to the Stanley Cup Finals, the Rangers scored on just 12.6% of their power play advantages, which was only 13 goals in 103 power play opportunities.

It’s been a thorn in the team’s side for a long time now, and it’s partially due to the lack of an elite point man on the power play. For a few years it was Brad Richards manning the point, and this past season that role went to Martin St. Louis and Dan Boyle, neither of whom were able to spark the team while up a man or two.

However, that should not be a problem anymore.

Enter Keith Yandle; the 29 year old elite puck moving defenseman who has posted back-to-back 50 point seasons. Even more impressive is the fact that he had the Arizona Coyotes, known as one of the worst offenses in the league during the past two years, finish with a power play conversion percentage of 19.9% and 20.0% during the 2013-14 and 2014-15 seasons, respectively.

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Photo courtesy of MSG Photos.

 

In Arizona, Yandle did not have any high-powered offensive forwards to work with, at all. During the 2013-14 season, Antoine Vermette led the team with 24 goals, while Shane Doan (23) and Radim Vraba (20) were the only other two players to score at least 20 goals. In 63 games with Arizona last year, Yandle managed 41 points, despite the fact that the only player with 20 goals at the end of the season was fellow defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson.

Yandle makes his teammates better, demonstrating crisp passing skills and excellent puck movement from the point. His skills shine even brighter on the power play, taking advantage of all of the extra space that’s given to him. So far, Yandle has scored 67 goals along with 255 assists in his career. Out of those, 23 goals and 123 assists have come on the power play, which is 45% of his career points.

In 21 games with the Rangers in the regular season, Yandle had a disappointing three points on the power play, but he added four more points, all assists, when up a man in 19 playoff games. He led the team in PP TOI/G after coming over from the Coyotes, but fell to seventh in that category during the playoffs (Brassard, Stepan, Boyle, Kreider, St. Louis, and Zuccarello when healthy were ahead of him). That must change if the Rangers want to end their power play woes in 2015-16.

Yandle is not going to blow you away with goals on the man advantage. That’s just simply not his role. What he excels at is getting the puck to the net, looking for deflections and rebounds and cycling the puck better than just about anybody else. He’s extremely effective in that role, and all of those assists suggest show that. They also seem to say that what also matters is the help of his teammates.

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Keith Yandle isn’t a prolific goal scorer, but he ferociously attacks the net on the power play. Photo courtesy of MSG Photos.

The burden of resurrecting this troubled power play cannot fall solely on Keith Yandle’s shoulders. The forwards on the ice need to do their part too. And I think they will.

Chris Kreider can be an absolute monster in front of the net, using his immense stature for screens and his silky smooth hands for deflections (which he practices during every warmup). Rick Nash is another player that found success around the crease, and players like Derick Brassard and Mats Zuccarello need to utilize their shot.

If this unit is cohesive and meshes well together, we could finally be seeing a power play unit that functions at least slightly above the league average. If the coaching staff can’t figure out a way to get a power play unit functioning that has Yandle in charge, with a supporting crew of Dan Boyle, Derick Brassard, Rick Nash and plenty other players, than it may not be a problem with the players on the ice.

You don’t need a great power play to have a great team. The Blackhawks are notorious for having a shaky power play but still thriving in the playoffs, and winning championships. But when your offense goes stagnant it’s nice to have another outlet to kick start things. Just look at the Washington Capitals. They could be doing nothing with the puck for 10 minutes, but Ovechkin fires a one-timer into the back of the net on the man advantage, and it’s a completely different game.

I think this is the year that we will see the Rangers finally end their power play woes, and finish above the league average, hovering around the 19% mark. Keith Yandle will lead the charge, showcasing exactly what made Glen Sather pull the trigger and trade for him at this past deadline.

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Posted on September 17, 2015, in In the Crease and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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